Friday, April 20, 2012

Aloe Vera

I think that Aloe Vera is a plant that is recognised , grown and used around the world.  Although it is a  native of the dry climate of North-East Africa and the Middle East, it grows easily in tropical gardens as well.  Even the most anti-herbal remedy person is usually willing to concede that Aloe Vera has its medicinal use.

The Aloe Vera in my garden is grown in containers as well as in the ground.  Aloe Vera looks lovely in the used clay pots that I pick up for cheap at garage sales.  These can be taken indoors for a hardy indoor plant in a well lighted room.

The Aloe Vera that I have growing in the ground got there as a last resort.  I had a hot, dry, sandy area of garden that left any other plant I tried there dead.  So I broke off a few of the very big Aloe Vera plants from the containers and planted them out in the problem area.  With an occasional watering, they have taken off and now have babies growing up from the stems so that they are on the way to being a hardy ground cover.  The Aloe Vera has the advantage of being a little bit poky so it keeps the wild chickens from scratching in the area.

As the baby Aloe Vera plants grow bigger, I harvest a few and plant them in 6" pots for a gift or for selling.  These transplanted babies can turn rotten and die if they get too much water before their roots grow so keep them fairly dry and under watered.

Aloe Vera is, of course, well known as a herbal remedy for healing burns.  Cut a large leaf of the plant, peel off the skin and smear the cool, soothing inner gel over the burnt area.  It is good when you get a hot fat or water burn in the kitchen and it is wonderful to smear over sun burnt shoulders.  It is also used as a healing agent for cuts and lesions of the skin.

I have also heard claims that Aloe Vera is very good for the digestive system and is helpful for stomach ulcers and inflammation of the bowel.  I do notice that Aloe Vera juice in cold drinks is becoming main stream now and not just in health food stores.  Several  brands of Aloe Vera drinks can be bought  now at our local supermarket as well as at the gas station store.  If you are thinking of trying it out, one can easily add fresh Aloe Vera into a fruit smoothie at home for much less cost.  Just add about a 3" piece of a peeled leaf to the blended juice.  When I have tried it there is very little Aloe Vera flavor beyond that of the blended fruit.  I like it in a mix of papaya, ice water and a bit of lemon juice.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

All Saints Day in French Polynesia

Well, another travel related blog today.

Last November I spent  four weeks in French Polynesia.  It was wonderful to visit five different islands during the trip and finally see what French Polynesia was like.  I have visited many Polynesian islands and the tropical island landscape was familiar, but the Tahitian and French cultures add something to these that is different and interesting.  Now in case you are wondering how I could afford to have a month in French Polynesia, remember that I travel as a frugal backpacker.  I was not staying in those overpriced bungalow resorts built out over the lagoon.  I was sleeping in a bunk bed in a hostel dorm room for about US$30 a night and living on French bread.  The month stay cost me about US$2000 total.  This is not including my plane ticket there from home, but does include inter island ferries and a plane ride.  If you are not willing to go that cheap, you can find lots of Bed and Breakfast places there, called Pensions, that cost around US$100 a night.  That is where the French tourists stay.

While I was there, French Polynesia celebrated the public holiday called All Saint's Day that falls on November 1st.  On this day, the islanders pay their respect to their dead relatives by cleaning up the graves of the departed.  They give the graves a fresh coat of paint and place flower arrangements on the graves.  Although many families make their own arrangements, there are also people selling flower arrangements in the market places and along the road side.

Below are some photographs taken on the islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora and Raiatea of the decorated graves and the flower sellers.  As you can see, the Red Ginger is a very popular flower there.